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How 3D Printing is Changing the World
3D printing has only been around since the 1990s, but the impact it has already had in almost all areas of our lives is enormous.
Whether it’s in business, education, food, architecture, or design, 3D printing has been finding applications in a wide variety of industries around the world. In this article, I’ll take a look at the impact this revolutionary technology has already had and how it’s shaping human society into the future.
The application of 3D printing technology has impacted several areas, mainly by speeding up and reducing the cost of manufacture. But there’s a lot more to 3D printing than that. Here are some of the ways 3D printing is shaping our future.
3D Printing Will Revolutionize Education
Many teachers are now using 3D printing as part of their classroom methods alongside other new technologies like tablets and interactive whiteboards.
In fact, a large percentage of teachers around the world are starting to use 3D printing technology purely as a teaching aid in regular classroom lessons
3D printing can be used to make classroom lessons more exciting. Students can design and print their own teaching props that can then be used to demonstrate various concepts in class.
3D printed teaching aids can make it much easier for students to understand complex mathematical and scientific problems by taking these concepts off of a page of text and turning it into three-dimensional reality.
We have seen 3D replicas of historical artifacts, fossils, or even bones presented in class for the purpose of learning simply because the real ones are too fragile to be used in a classroom environment.
This helps to make lessons more exciting and immersive. In the end, students will be able to learn faster and are more likely to remember what they have learned.
Of course, students also learn about 3D printing itself and how it is used in design and manufacture. Because 3D printing is relatively safe and cheap, it is much easier for even young students to be given access to it. This enables them to become familiar with it in preparation for using it in their future careers.
3D Printing and Medicine
3D printing is now playing a significant role in providing better care and new treatments to patients.
3D printing can be used in a variety of applications, including the development of bespoke prosthetic parts that are tailored to fit perfectly on each patient.
Researchers in medicine are using 3D printed models to understand better human physiology, which in turn gives them the information they need to develop effective cures and treatments.
It is also possible that shortly, real human organs could be created using 3D bioprinters. This will make the idea of finding vital organs for chronically ill patients easier and less expensive than it is currently.
Facilitating Safe and Innovative Building Construction
3D printing has primarily been used to make small objects. But as the technology continues to advance, the size of 3D printers has been able to grow, and we are now starting to see the application of 3D printing in the design and construction of large buildings.
Although we are still not there yet, it is likely in a few years 3D printing will completely revolutionize architecture and building technology.
3D printing is already being used to enhance creativity in architectural design and help architects to develop innovative and adaptive buildings that respond to various human needs.
3D printing is already being used in multiple countries throughout the world to print entire homes.
Giant 3D printers can extrude innovative concrete mixes in intricate shapes to create uniquely shaped structures that would be impossible to make by any other means.
Because of the reduction in labor force needed, 3D printing can reduce construction costs, and it is believed may be the solution to our worldwide housing shortage, especially in developing countries that lack their own skilled labor force or raw materials.
How 3D Printing Is Changing Business
One area where 3D printing is being used extensively is in business. There are, of course, many applications right now. Here is a breakdown of how 3D printing technology has been impacting companies around the world.
Making Prototypes and Models
Manufacturing is definitely at the core of many business operations around the world, and any technology that can reduce manufacturing costs or lead times will result in higher profits.
In the past, designing and making products involved a lot of test runs with prototype models. These prototypes took time and cost a lot of money to manufacture.
3D printing is changing all that. A simple prototype of a product can quickly and easily be printed using a 3D printer, and a nearly exact model of the final product can be presented in a matter of hours.
Using 3D printing, designers can test many variations of the design, spending very little time and money in the process. This has led to the development of high-quality products, savings for business, and ultimately increased profitability.
3D Printing as an Industry
As the demand for 3D printed models and technology continues to rise, the number of companies that specialize in this area has also grown massively.
3D printing services are giving other businesses the expertise and the technology they need to take advantage of this concept. As a result, we have seen a sudden growth in a vibrant 3D industry. This has helped to create jobs and generate wealth for a lot of people.
The 3D printing industry is expected to be a crucial pillar in powering businesses of the future. As the technology becomes further advanced, it will find more applications in sectors where it’s never been used before. This will then mean that more 3D printing experts or companies will be needed leading to more jobs and more wealth creation.
How 3D Printing Is Changing Medicine and Healthcare
As we have already discussed, 3D printing technology is finding an array of uses in medicine and medical care. But how specifically is the technology improving health care?
Bioprinting is an extension of 3D printing technology, instead of producing plastic models, bioprinting can be used to create living human tissue. This means that 3D printing technology could actually be used to print working human organs that can be used as donors. As crazy as that may sound, it’s a reality that is not that far away.
Organ donation has always fallen short of its demand to the degree that is not uncommon to have patients waiting years for a donor kidney or heart transplant. But with bioprinting, they may not have to wait at all.
Besides, printing organs using 3D printing could be much cheaper. This will make it easier for people of all backgrounds to afford organ transplants when they need to as well as enabling universal healthcare systems like the NHS in the UK to offer bio-printed donor organs with no waiting time.
3D printing is also helping researchers and medical experts to develop bespoke and more convenient combined treatments.
Custom pills can be printed, which contain several different medications, think of it as all the patient’s pills in one dose.
As you can imagine, some people, especially the elderly, have to contend with a lot of pills to treat various ailments. One person could even need more than ten different pills a day. This can be too much for most people to remember, especially those suffering from conditions that affect cognitive ability such as dementia.
3D printing can help medical practitioners create one solution that takes care of all these problems. Just one pill to deal with everything a patient is suffering from will be needed. This could make therapeutic efficacy higher.
Your family doctor could make you a prescription of several different medications. When you take this to your pharmacy, they can use a 3D printer to print your bespoke drug containing your exact required dosage.
Highly accurate 3D printed models of organ, muscles, and skeletons can be used to help doctors prepare for complex surgeries. Surgeons can use real life-sized models of human bodies to understand what needs to be done when the actual operation begins, which can help avoid unforeseen issues.
This will reduce the chances of error and lessen the amount of trauma suffered by patients.
Some companies are developing AI and robotic technologies that can be used to teach a robot to carry out surgical procedures.
For example, if a patient is getting ready for a kidney transplant. The technique to do such an operation can be applied in a 3D real-life model and perfected over time so that in the future, it can be transferred to an automated surgical machine that does the procedure automatically.
In theory, a robot surgeon could be better skilled than a human and less prone to error or fatigue.
One of the most publicized applications of 3D printing is in creating high-quality custom prosthetics. The difference between 3D printing and traditional manufacturing methods used to develop prosthetics is that 3D printed prosthetics can easily be tailored to produce custom solutions that meet the exact needs of the patient.
Patients can be precisely measured, or even 3D scanned and then prosthetics designed to fit their exact size and shape.
One of the most significant benefits of 3D printed prosthetics is that they can also be much more aesthetically pleasing. Patients can wear prosthetics that are entirely unique in form.
Many patients enjoy wearing prosthetics that are themed like their favorite cartoon character or movie star, or their own unique design.
3D printed prosthetics can also be optimized for sports performance. This allows the wearer to swap different designs depending on their current activity.
In addition to all these advantages, 3D printed prosthetics can also be cheaper too.
How 3D Printed Food Could Change How We Eat
It’s hard to imagine that technology as advanced as 3D printing could be combined with something as ancient and straightforward as making food.
There are already chocolate 3D printers on the market that work in just the same way as FDM printers but print chocolate instead of plastic! You can print your own completely unique shapes and designs, and they are perfect for making custom chocolate designs with people’s names or special dates.
In the future 3D, printed food will develop even further.
Imagine stepping into your smart home and making your favorite sandwich at the touch of a button? Although this is still a work in progress, there are companies right now that are already 3D printing pizzas!
Forward-thinking restaurants are 3D printing food to give their dishes unique shapes and forms that dazzle their diners with imaginative creations that enhance the dining experience.
The idea of printing food could also have a considerable impact on food delivery. In the future, if you have a favorite restaurant, somewhere that you love, you won’t need to go there or wait for your food to be delivered. You can simply order online, have the food models sent to you, and then you can 3D print the exact same recipe, and enjoy the food in a matter of minutes.
It may seem strange to print food no doubt, but the idea just shows you how limitless 3D printing can be.
One product, in fact, allows users to select an array of predetermined recipes from an online portal and print the food using a small 4.7-inch high 3D food printer that weighs less than 10 kilograms.
There are, of course, limitations of printing food. For instance, you will still need all the ingredients in the recipe so at some point you will still have to go grocery shopping or your 3D printer could be combined with the IoT (internet of things), and it could order all the necessary ingredients for you!
How 3D Printing Will Change Education
If there is one area where 3D printing is likely to have the most significant impact it is in education. The great thing right now is that a lot of educators are already fully embracing the idea of adopting 3D printing in teaching. It’s just a matter of time before 3D printing becomes a standard teaching tool like books and computers. Here are some of the ways it can be used to better the experience of students.
3D Printed Models
Creating models is an essential part of science and engineering. Physical models that you can touch and interrogate make it much easier to learn abstract concepts of mathematics and science, while exact replica models can help engineers and artists understand the form and aesthetic qualities as well as practical considerations before committing to final product manufacture.
Whether we are talking about students studying fashion design and creative arts or those involved in the hard sciences like engineering, architecture, chemistry or materials sciences, at some point they will need to create models to explore design feasibility and aid in their studies.
3D printing is by far the easiest and cheapest solution for quickly creating either functional or non-functional models. The ability to quickly design and manufacture models makes it easier for students to appreciate complex concepts and internalize them as needed.
As a matter of fact, this is actually one of the main reasons why 3D printing has become one of the most essential instructional methods in modern education.
Simple models can be used in other subjects too. For instance, teachers can use models of fossils to teach a history class, models of bones to teach a biology class, models of printed molecules and their structure to teach a chemistry class, or even models of maps and human populations to teach geography. It’s just an easy way to visualize theory and make learning fun and practical for each student.
3D Printing Helps Students to Interact with the World
3D printing is not just about engineering and design students at the college level. It can also be used at lower grades to help young children interact with the world.
Instead of trying to explain something to an eight-year-old kid, how about showing them? This kind of interaction is crucial because children can process visual images better than words.
For instance, if you show a child an image of an elephant, they are likely to remember it more than when you describe to them what an elephant is.
3D printed models can be used to create real-life objects that kids at lower education levels can interact with. This promotes better learning in the long run.
3D printing can also be used to enhance creativity among students at all levels of academia. Teachers are already encouraging kids to create their own designs and print them on a 3D printer to produce real-life models. It doesn’t even have to be something complex. Anything including trial and error designs, can be printed using a small 3D printer.
Because 3D printing can be very cost effective, students are much more free to create new designs without fear of it going wrong and wasting resources.
This encourages students to be creative and, in their future careers, they will be able to focus their minds to create and innovate products and new technologies.
Using 3D printers on this way is happening right now as there are cheaper and smaller desktop 3D printers that are perfect for this purpose. Desktop 3D printers are ubiquitous in classrooms, and they seem to be playing a vital role in nurturing the next generation for innovators out there.
New Technology Inspires Students towards the Sciences
3D printing is one of the most advanced innovations of our time, widely regarded as one of the main catalysts for the 4th industrial Revolution.
The idea of letting students, especially at their early levels of education, interact with 3D printing technology can trigger their curiosity towards the sciences. There have been a lot of efforts in recent years to try and get more students interested in studying STEM subjects, especially at a younger age.
Although educators are using different incentives to try and achieve this goal, giving kids the chance to interact with an advanced piece of technology that helps them to express their creativity seems to be giving positive results.
3D Printing Makes Education Fun
3D printing has been playing a central role in adding some fun and excitement to education. No student wants to sit in a two-hour geology lecture looking at black and white textbook pictures of a fossil.
3D printed models can be used to allow students to get a real hands-on experience which is not only more exciting and engaging but also more relevant to what they’ll experience in the real world in their future career.
For younger students in their first years of school, interacting with 3D printed models makes learning so much more exciting and memorable.
Kids will look forward to school as their curiosity and excitement continue to grow. As long as students are enjoying what they are learning, the chances are, they will more easily understand what they are being taught and apply that knowledge in various aspects of their lives.
How 3D Printing Is Helping the Environment
Climate change and the protection of the environment have become some of the most critical policy debates over the last few years.
It is clear that human activities, including carbon emissions and plastic waste, are harming the environment. Many innovations are being implemented to try and slow down and stop climate change by reducing harmful emissions of CO2.
But what role can 3D printing play in all this? Firstly, compared to many conventional manufacturing methods, 3D printing is more environmentally friendly. By choosing 3D printing over traditional manufacturing methods, you are selecting a process that uses less energy, fewer materials, and less transportation.
Another reason 3D printing can help the environment is that it enables companies to very quickly optimize their products before committing to production runs. This means less wasted and more highly optimized products.
In case you don’t want to use plastic due to the dangers it poses to the environment, don’t worry. There are actually many sustainable 3D printer materials that can be used to print prototypes just as effectively. In addition to this, 3D printers use less energy than many other manufacturing technologies, which leads to fewer emissions.
We are also seeing 3D printing technology finding several applications in recycling. You can use this technology to turn waste into products. For instance, the German sports apparel maker Adidas is using 3D printing to create high-quality insoles for its shoes using recycled fishing nets.
In addition to this, since 3D printers use plastic to create the 3D models, it’s possible to use all the plastic that we don’t recycle in this area. For instance, it is estimated that there is a total of 18 billion pounds of plastics in the ocean as we speak. Since plastic is one of the least biodegradable materials, the waste can be used to create plastic-based fillers for 3D printed objects. This will then help the world to better deal with plastic waste in the future.
3D Printing Meat to help the Environment
The concept of 3D printing meat could also revolutionize how we save our planet. Many scientists note that the production of beef through cattle is contributing to increased quantities of greenhouse gases as well as higher deforestation to create arable farmland to crops for livestock food.
Despite this, demand for beef is so high that it’s practically impossible to stop cattle farming. But 3D printing could give the world a different alternative towards meeting the global beef demand. 3D printed meat is not a reality yet, but there are a few companies that are working on it.
It’s safe to say that we are actually not that far away from printed meat. In a few years, you could be able to buy 3D manufactured meat that tastes the same as the good old beef. This will then play a key role in reducing our carbon emissions leading to a cleaner and cooler planet.
3D Printing Environmentally Friendly Buildings
3D modeling will also be used to facilitate building designs in the future that are more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
Architecture is not just about creating the most beautiful or artistic building. It’s also about developing environmentally sustainable structures.
3D modeling and printing will give architects the tools they need to create such buildings. They will also be able to test various building concepts and integrate necessary design changes that help to create highly sustainable buildings. This will help to reduce our carbon footprint significantly.
Rather than being circular or square, heating and ventilation systems can be intricately shaped to make use of Aerodynamic concepts to convey hot and fresh air around the building using natural convection currents.
Organically shaped heating ducts can be combined with heat pumps that extract natural warmth from under the ground and feed it around the home.
Rooms can be shaped to promote movement of air around the home, conveying hot or cold air and avoiding dead spots that you find in the corners of square-shaped dwellings.
How 3D Printing Is Helping the Arts
Surprisingly, some of the industries that have been most keen to make use of 3D printing had been fashion and the arts.
Whether students or professionals, 3D printing is helping artists create innovative works that push all the boundaries of creativity.
This is because compared to traditional manufacturing methods, 3D printing offers almost limitless freedom.
Anything you can conceive with your mind can be created and brought to life without having to think about structural considerations. This gives artists the chance to think beyond their normal limits. They can create and conceive great artistic ideas and try them out with a 3D printer to see how everything works out. This has helped to enhance a culture of developing out of the box art.
Replication of Unique Art Pieces
In addition to creating new objects, 3D printing also offers an easier opportunity for replication.
By making use of a 3D scanner, existing sculptural artworks can be copied and reprinted on a 3D printer. Before printing, the scan data can also be combined with new sculptural elements to create original and unique artworks that are an amalgamation of old and new.
In the same way that artists sell printed copies of their paintings, 3D printing can also be used to create exact duplicates of sculptural works that the artist can then sell.
This can give art lovers a unique opportunity to own an artist-approved copy of their sculpture.
All the artist needs to do is to create one single copy, feed the model into a 3D printer, and mass produce all the copies needed. In the end, artists can enhance efficiency in their work and to benefit more from it.
3D printing may also help in customizing art. As noted above, a piece of art is simply a conception of the mind. An artist sits down and thinks about what he or she wants to create.
However, using pen and paper to transform thoughts into reality is quite limited. This makes it hard for artists to customize their works and bring out all the details they had conceived in their mind.
Well, 3D printing changes all this. It gives you a wide variety of design tools that can help incorporate even the most abstract concepts into any physical three-dimensional design.
The design can then be printed and reproduced the way it’s supposed to be. This kind of versatility opens up whole new possibilities in the art world. It gives artists a creative and curious mind an infinite canvas to create and produce whatever artwork that comes to mind.
3D printing can also help to enhance an artist’s vision when creating artwork. Although art pieces may be considered sophisticated, the fact remains that they are purely based on creativity.
Most artists will simply imagine something they know they can create, knowing what tools they have available. This may be a subconscious thought, and the artist may think they were thinking freely and unconstrained, but that may not be the case.
Within the unconscious limitations of pen and paper, that imagination becomes limited too.
But 3D printing changes that. When an artist has access to a 3D printer, their mind opens to the new possibilities available to them. It’s now possible to imagine any three-dimensional shape, surface, or texture, knowing you can actually create it with your 3D printer.
The great thing is, 3D printing has become very affordable. There are several small and less expensive printers on the market that are specifically designed for the average home and small business user, including artists without large budgets.
How 3D Printing Is Helping the Housing Shortage
For most of this article, we have looked at the role 3D printing is playing in enhancing business, art, education, and health care. But have you ever thought that 3D printing could actually solve the housing shortage problem around the world?
With a record number of homeless people and an estimation that it will become harder and harder to get a decent place to live over the coming years, the only solution is to build many more homes.
But genuinely sustainable and affordable homes are the only answer to this, and 3D printing could play a significant part in solving this global problem.
Many experts agree that to solve the global housing crisis, innovative house designs are needed. While architects around the world have been trying to create these kinds of homes, conceptualizing them and how they are meant to operate has not been easy.
This is where 3D printing comes in. It gives designers interested in housing the chance to play around with various concept homes for the global housing market. 3D printed houses may not be here now, but the technology is definitely helping creative minds visualize how affordable, sustainable, and decent homes of the future could look like.
Over the next few years, we will likely start to see a more significant 3D printing role in housing development and innovation. 3D printing technology could also advance over the years to accommodate demands for 3D house printing.
So far, we are still far from that, but there is considerable interest in using this technology to tackle the global housing crisis once and for all.
3D printing has had a massive impact on a typical day to day life. The technology is shaping manufacturing, education, business, medicine, and even art in a huge way. Over the coming few years, many experts feel that 3D printing will find its way into many more industries leading to better and more advanced applications. However, it seems like so far, many industries would be lost without 3D printing and 3D modeling.